|President of Brigham Young University|
July 1, 1989 –December 31, 1995
|Preceded by||Jeffrey R. Holland|
|Succeeded by||Merrill J. Bateman|
|37th Solicitor General of the United States|
August 1981 –June 1, 1985
|Preceded by||Wade H. McCree|
|Succeeded by||Charles Fried|
|United States Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division|
|Preceded by||Carla Anderson Hills|
|Succeeded by||Barbara A. Babcock|
|Dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School|
October 1971 –August 1981
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Carl S. Hawkins|
Rex Edwin Lee
February 27, 1935
St. Johns, Arizona, U.S.
|Died||March 11, 1996 61) (aged|
Provo, Utah, U.S.
|Children||7 (including Mike and Thomas)|
|Education|| Brigham Young University (BA)|
University of Chicago (JD)
Rex Edwin Lee (February 27, 1935 – March 11, 1996) was an American lawyer, law clerk for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White, and the United States Solicitor General during the Reagan administration. He was responsible for bringing the Solicitor General in the center of policymaking. He argued 59 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), Lee was an alumnus and the tenth president of Brigham Young University (BYU). Lee was also the founding Dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU.
Lee was born in St. Johns, Arizona on February 27, 1935. His parents were Mabel (née Whiting) and Rex E. Lee. 41–42 Lee and Griffin had seven children.According to an obituary in American Rifleman , Lee's father was shot and killed during a hunting trip in November 1934. His mother later married Wilford Shumway. Lee served a mission for the LDS Church in the Mexican Mission, serving as second counselor to the mission president. He first met his future wife, Janet Griffin (whose father was the Treasury Attaché of the US Embassy in Mexico City), while he was in Mexico. When Lee returned from his mission and enrolled at BYU, he again became acquainted with Janet and they married on July 7, 1958 in Arizona. :
During his undergraduate years at BYU, Lee was elected student-body president.After completing his undergraduate work at BYU, in 1963 Lee graduated from the University of Chicago Law School with a Doctor of Juridical Science. After graduating as the valedictorian of his class, Lee served as a seat six law clerk for Byron White, an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C.
Following his clerkship at the U.S. Supreme Court, Lee returned to Arizona and became a partner in the Phoenix law firm of Jennings, Strouss & Salmon. 4Only four years after graduating from law school, Lee argued his first case before the U.S. Supreme Court, despite the fact that he had not yet led any depositions in a lower civil court. :
In 1972, Lee left his public legal career to become the founding dean of Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School and is considered personally responsible for recruiting many members of its charter class.
Lee entered public service, first at the invitation of Attorney General Edward H. Levi as an Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Division in the United States Department of Justice from 1975–76. 51In 1980, Lee wrote A Lawyer Looks at the Equal Rights Amendment where he attempted to legally defend the LDS Church's opposition of Equal Rights Amendment as well as its anti-homosexual viewpoints. :
He served as Solicitor General of the United States from 1981-85 under President of the United States Ronald Reagan.As Solicitor General, Lee argued cases before the Supreme Court. During his time as Solicitor General, Lee won 23 of the 30 cases he argued during Ronald Reagan's first presidential term. Before he died, he spent time preparing to argue his sixtieth case before the Supreme Court despite being confined to a hospital bed. Associate Justice White said that Lee "was the epitome of integrity." At one point, while being criticized for taking somewhat unpopular stances that might have been at odds with the administration under which he served, Lee responded: "I'm the solicitor general, not the pamphleteer general."
Lee relished the opportunity to argue before the Supreme Court. His son, Mike Lee, noted that Lee was very energetic and enthusiastic about arguing cases.In June 1985, Lee resigned as Solicitor General among criticism that he was not conservative enough. In 1986, after his resignation from the Solicitor General's office, Lee was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Lee managed to recover after about a year of cancer treatment and therapy and was named BYU's tenth president. According to some accounts, when Lee was asked to assume the position as university president, he accepted on the condition that he would still be able to argue cases before the Supreme Court in his spare time. He argued nine before his death.
As president of BYU, Lee oversaw the creation of clear standards on employment requirements and academic freedom, especially in terms of religious education. Lee believed that religious perspectives in the classroom promote academic freedom rather than hinder it. 4,15 He also oversaw the streamlining of graduation requirements to aid students in graduating more quickly. Specifically, he limited major requirements to 60 credit hours, encouraging graduation within four years or eight semesters. Furthermore, he reinstated weekly university devotionals. His administration was responsible for growing the size of the campus and prestige of the university. In 1993, Lee decided BYU would offer lower tuition for summer semester to increase enrollment. While president, Lee instituted a rule that added regular church attendance as a requirement for attending BYU (though regular church attendance was not defined), stating that the rule would not be used to force church attendance but those that those best fitted to BYU's environment would, "cheerfully participate in church activity." :156:
In 1993 to 1994, controversy arose when two professors were terminated at BYU. Arguments arose on the nature of the firings with some claiming that they were fired due to their outspoken beliefs (one of which was supportive of the Pro-choice movement) that were not in line with the beliefs of the LDS Church, while administrators claimed it was strictly due to academic performance. 218–229 These allegations sparked accusations of an "anti-feminist" BYU which Lee denied, affirming that feminists were welcome on BYU campus. :314 Lee also introduced "question and answer" sessions for faculty, students, and staff as well as additions to the physical plant of the university. Furthermore, he emphasized university devotional attendance and encouraged school spirit. In 1994, Lee created a committee to raise $250 million for the "Lighting the Way Capital Campaign" for the benefit of BYU and BYU-Hawaii to reach accreditation. The campaign was completed in December 1999, having earned over $400 million.:
Before Lee's tenure as university president was over, he struggled with lymphoma and peripheral neuropathy.He served as president university from July 1, 1989 to December 31, 1995. He died at age 61, less than three months after resigning as president of BYU. During Lee's funeral, BYU classes were canceled for two hours to allow students to attend the funeral.
During his career, Lee argued 59 cases before the Supreme Court.Associate Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito served as an assistant to Solicitor General Lee from 1981 to 1985, where Alito argued 12 cases before the Court. According to scholar Rebecca Mae Salokar, Rex E. Lee brought the position of Solicitor General into the center of policymaking in the United States. In 1998, the J. Reuben Clark Law School created the Rex E. Lee Chair, a position created to honor Lee.
Lee won one of the first Distinguished Utahn of the Year Award.Lee was an avid runner throughout his life (he was nominated to be Solicitor General two days after completing the Boston Marathon), and an annual race is held in his honor at BYU to raise proceeds for cancer research.
Like his father, Thomas Rex Lee would later teach at the Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School, before resigning to accept an appointment as an Associate Justice of the Utah Supreme Court.Another son, Mike Lee, graduated from BYU as an undergrad and a law student, before clerking for Judge Dee Benson at the United States District Court, District of Utah, and for Justice Alito, once while he was still judging on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and once on the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2011, Mike became a United States Senator from Utah. Lee was a first cousin of politicians Mo Udall and Stewart Udall.
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|New office|| Dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School |
Carl S. Hawkins
Jeffrey R. Holland
| President of Brigham Young University |
Merrill J. Bateman
Wade H. McCree
| Solicitor General of the United States |